Your letters

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The State Journal encourages readers to submit letters to the editor for publication by noon Wednesday for the following Sunday’s paper. All letters must contain the writer’s full name, mailing address and telephone number for purposes of verification. The State Journal will not withhold the name of a writer. Any letter received without a mailing address and phone number will not be published. The State Journal will not publish thank-you letters, obvious form letters or letters addressed to third parties or to the public at large. Any letter may be rejected at editors’ discretion. All letters submitted for publication are subject to editing for length, form and content. Letters may be no more than 500 words long. Letters may be mailed to Letters to the Editor, The State Journal, 1216 Wilkinson Blvd., Frankfort, KY 40601; or e-mailed to rherron@state-journal.com.

Lawmakers let

workers down

To the Editor:

“Benefits on brink,” your July 20 editorial on our study of how public and private compensation compare in Kentucky, says that its findings could become “little more than an academic argument” because public benefits are “on course for a nasty train wreck” and “there may be no choice but to get on a different track sooner rather than later.”

Kentucky does have a big problem with the funding level of its public pension system. But the problem we face now cannot be described as one of generous pension benefits for public workers. Kentucky’s benefits for new workers are below average compared to other states after the 2008 cuts, and as described in our report, overall compensation in the public sector in Kentucky is lower than private-sector counterparts. Also, legal experts say that because of the inviolable contract, Kentucky cannot throw out the system for current employees to get “on a different track.”

The existing funding gap must be addressed regardless of what we do moving forward. Kentucky’s problem is caused primarily by the legislature not making its required contribution to the system in 13 of the last 18 years. Although harmed by the severe recession, most other state pension systems will pull through fine because, unlike Kentucky and a few other states, they paid their bills on time.

Organizations trying to make the national problem look worse are using faulty math to support their agenda of attacking public-sector workers and unions. Furthermore, proposals to move away from a traditional defined-benefit pension system to a defined-contribution, 401(k)-style system fail to recognize the huge inefficiencies of the latter. A dollar put by the state into a defined-benefit system will result in bigger benefits and more secure retirement than the same dollar put into a defined-contribution system. That’s because the latter have much higher administrative costs and lower investment returns. They miss out on the risk-sharing and pooling benefits of a traditional pension system. That impacts not just public workers and their families, but the entire Kentucky economy. Retirement income from state and local government employees pumps $1.6 billion annually into the Kentucky economy, which translates into jobs at local stores, restaurants and doctor’s offices.

Kentucky needs to take a hard look at what mechanisms the many states that have kept their traditional pension systems in financial shape use to ensure adequate payments are made on time, and not cut off our nose to spite our face.

Jason Bailey

Berea, Director Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

State should

keep promises

To the Editor:

I have been reading the latest developments regarding the state retirement system’s insurance benefits. I was one of those people who started to work for the state straight out of high school in the 1960s. The starting salary was pitiful, and it took years and years to finally get to a halfway livable paycheck.

Now I am retired and like so many others who worked diligently, we feel we are entitled to the best benefits the state retirement system can provide. All along the way, the system was deducting funds from my small salary to be credited to my retirement account. Our retirement was not free, we paid into it, with the promise of a retirement check and insurance.

We could have worked at other places and made a larger wage but felt proud to serve the commonwealth in our positions. The system now has to continue to provide us with the best benefits possible. We earned it.

Linda Kjeseth

Frankfort

Take 401(k)

and shove it

To the Editor:

If House Speaker Greg Stumbo has his way, the General Assembly will move our KRS retirement savings from placement by the KRS board to individual retirement accounts via the 401(k) program. Never mind the 401(k) savings program lost two-thirds of its value during the last depression, uh, recession. Investments, which took years to prepare for retirement, with the blink of an eye are gone. A heartbreaker if you are past 50. This was not true with KRS managing our retirement funds.

It will be much safer to continue with the KRS doing our investing. With a 401(k) each individual has to gamble on the selected mutual funds. A mutual fund is a company that brings together money from many people and invests it in stocks, bonds or other assets.

The principal in mutual funds is several stocks recommended by your broker. (The investor pays brokerage fees.) Mutual fund stocks go up, some go down. As long as the stock market is solid, mutual funds will gain some points. These funds are also subject to total wipe-out. That is not a guess. Past performance documents the drastic change in value of the 401(k) program.

 The effects of the current economic crisis have touched everyone. Even if you still have a good job and a paid-up mortgage, chances are your monthly 401(k) statement will remind you that you have lost a good chunk of your savings. 

Trillions of dollars have evaporated from those accounts that have become the prime source of retirement funds for a majority of American workers, affecting their future.

 With KRS continuing to invest our retirement funds, risks are managed by professional financial advisers. Yes, the funding may be down at the KRS, however, that is the handiwork of back-home pork projects. It is pork for the legislators, paid for with money that should have been allocated to the retirement fund.

 PEW research, at Boston University, says if you want to continue to live in retirement as you did when you were employed, you will need 80 percent of your income from your full-time job. Yes, the 80 percent does include what you will receive with your Social Security benefits.

No!  The 401(k) program is not the solution for Kentucky workers.

Jim Anderson Stivers

Frankfort

Why fair’s a

summer event

To the Editor:

This is in response to the July 18 editorial that asked, “Why not a fall fair?” While this sounds like a good idea on the surface, let’s take a look at why there are county fairs in the first place.

County fairs were begun as a way for people in communities to gather at a time when all the crops were in the ground and producing, the livestock was doing well, schools were out, and rural, small-town life was at a slower pace. People gathered in a central place, such as the town square, a park, church or school to bring their best produce, baked goods, canned goods and handicrafts to show off a new technique or see who did the best at those tasks essential to life at the time. Many of these skills were an art form and some were more skilled than others.

People also brought their best animals to compete against each other for the most perfectly raised livestock. They also had other fun competitions, such as sack races, beauty contests, greased pig chases and much more. There was a sense of fun, friendly competition, and a chance to see what other rural residents were doing after the long winter and busy spring.

As time passed, county fairs changed with the times to include tractor and car shows, midways with thrill rides and sideshows, and other more modern attractions for fair-goers who may not have nor be as interested in competing in skilled trade, handicraft, agricultural or livestock type competitions.

One thing that has not changed is the timing of the county fair. Why? We go back to the originating reason – the friendly competition between neighbors with skills and livestock during a season when life is generally less hectic. When someone wins a grand champion ribbon in the local competition, they not only gain bragging rights in their community, they earn the right to move on to a bigger stage – the state fair.

The Kentucky State Fair is held traditionally in late August. In order for county fair items to be relevant and timely, county fairs must be held prior to the state fair. Deadlines to register for entry into the state fair are in July.

Yes, July is hot, so is August. But that is the best time for showing off our best agricultural crops, and Kentucky is still a proud agricultural state, and Franklin County is proud of its agricultural heritage. Perhaps we need to encourage more people in Franklin County to enter into the friendly competition that takes place at our Exhibit Hall, Fair Grounds and stages at our county fair! Then we can talk about when is the best time for this great community event to take place!

Kim Cowherd

County Extension Agent for Horticulture, Franklin County Cooperative Extension Service

Illogical

criticism

To the Editor:

Rolled into town last Sunday from my niece’s wedding on the “Left Coast,” where the newspapers are just about as right wing as anywhere, but the people aren’t. I felt right at home again when I picked up the Sunday State Journal and was welcomed back with a predictable outburst from one of my regular “followers.” My responses to his characteristically “brief” letter are recorded below, largely in the order in which they crossed my mind.

First, I would remind him and other State Journal readers that there is a useful difference between a “lively” debate and a “livid” debate. Second, ad hominem attacks are not arguments; indeed, “argumentum ad hominem” is a common logic fallacy. Calling a State Journal letter writer a bloviating incompetent essayist and a self-important, long-winded writer who says nothing does not address the facts as presented, or any corresponding logic with which opinions may or may not be substantiated. Here I would also note in all his letters I have read, he makes much of the virtue of brevity to which he subscribes. May I gently suggest that his brevity may be less a function of restraint, modesty and virtue and more a function of having little or nothing to say? I don’t think I have ever seen a letter in which he stated at respectable length his own reasoned opinion on an issue, rather than just a short, angry personal disagreement with what someone else has said.

Philosophers maintain that “origin does not determine validity.” It is a logic fallacy to believe that it does. It works both ways. For examples of this, consider that we have done nothing about global warming – because Al Gore made it part of his political position and thus Republicans can never recognize it as valid fact. Large portions of the nation’s population believe that low taxes stimulate growth and increase revenue to the treasury – because Saint Ronnie said it and Republicans believe it and will endlessly repeat it. But on these issues, history and facts support Gore and refute Reagan and Republicans. But more to the point at hand. The angry critic observes that my “facts” and opinions are fabrications obtained from MSNBC and Media Matters, neither of which I watch or read. Even were they obtained from these sources, their origin does not determine their validity, they are still either facts or informed opinions or they are not. I’m inclined to think the “origin” of the letter writer’s rage and unwillingness to face facts is Fox News, any Murdoch media, and those hysterically funny political humorists Limbaugh, Coulter and (has been) “comedian” Dennis Miller. Finally, anyone who could see a similarity between the human and informative humor provided by Maher, Colbert and Stewart, on one hand, and the hateful venom vomited by Rush, Coulter and Miller, on the other, is either humor or ethically challenged.

Mark Henry

Frankfort

Uncle Sam

needs a hand

To the Editor:

I belong to “The Electo-bull Overdose Club” but I got zapped by my good neighbor for – of all things – leaving yard-signs on display too long. Guilty, dammit! So sir, in that spirit, I do wish you’d notify the general public to clean up their car rear-ends.  We’d prefer surprises later.

And, if I may make so bold, I wonder if someone might loan me an Uncle Sam outfit (or parts thereof) for a few days of door-to-door visitation by me in the Coleman-Vogler voting precinct of South Frankfort. I’m not running for president this time, but rather for Uncle Sam. Surely, a mere immigrant (legal) can do no less! The “R” word describes my politico-affilio, but my deeper concern is our American NON-VOTER plague.

That plague is no fault of the vets at our polling station. They just don’t have enough taxis and footmen to pick us all up on The Day. We must get our a... there ourselves. And although a donkey is a totally respectable ass, so too – I’ll have you know – the elephant is famously no fool.  Remember The Alamo or The Raisin or. . .

 

Uncle Sam needs at least two American parties (or three-plus independents) but The Two are main dialoguers. 

Republicans are Americans and – dare I say it – Democrats are Americans! So for God’s sake (and never for the devil’s sake) we can vote either way and still be Americans. Right, Uncle Sam?  Let’s face it! We’ve got to have Guvment stick its neck out and run things – pop or not; then we’ve got to have a Honorable Hopposition. (Learned that from some foreigners, can’t remember where.) 

It’s simply super, of course, when both sides produce ladies and gentlemen, but heck – this is America and we can’t always help it. Thank God for Uncle Sam, I say. You’ve only to look at his face to know he’s got a healthy constitution – you can read him like a book!

 

Uncle Sam loan-rent outfit?

Anyone? How about mthornewil@aol.com for an idea? I’m sorta broke and not un-American, I promise. 

Mark Lyon Thornewill

Frankfort

Safer crossing

Kudos to Jeff Hackbart of Public Works – for making all of us once again feel SAFE at the intersection of Wilkinson and Broadway. Once again we can pull to a stop, and breathe easy!!

Debbie Bramlage

Frankfort

Millionaires

on the dole

To the Editor,

A while back we learned through the news media that there was a lady who had won the lottery and was still receiving food stamps. The consensus by most people was that this was not okay, and that something should be done about it. Let me tell you about four well-known millionaires and the amount of welfare that they are granted to receive in 2013. Here is the net worth of each one: Millionaire #one is $7 million; millionaire #2 is $20 million; millionaire #3 is $23 million; and millionaire #4 is $38 million. This is their current worth. The amount of welfare they are scheduled to receive in 2013 is as follows: Millionaire #1 will receive $518,000; millionaire #2 will receive $1,441,000; millionaire #3 will receive $892,000; and millionaire #4 will receive $1,461,000. Next week I will write and tell you just who these welfare recipients are. By the way, can you guess who they are? Next week, we’ll know the rest of the story.

Shirley W. Southworth

Frankfort

Good care

at low cost

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to your article entitled “Non-physicians seek greater independence in Kentucky,” printed in the July 11 edition of The State Journal. I am assuming this article is a summary of the article “Kentucky medical care shortage prompts non-physicians to seek greater independence” that appeared in The Courier-Journal July 9. I would like to offer your readers some points of clarification.

The State Journal article stated, “Current state law requires nurse practitioners to have a ‘collaborative agreement’ with a doctor in order to treat patients.” Issues surrounding collaborative agreements are complicated but need clarification so readers can fully understand why NPs believe the requirement is unnecessary. A collaborative agreement with a physician is required only for prescribing medications, as Kentucky law authorizes NPs and nurse midwives to practice autonomously, without supervision. (See KRS Chapter 314.011 and KRS Chapter 314.042.) It is merely a name on a piece of paper that can put a practice at risk for immediate closure, should the physician move, die or simply choose no longer to continue the agreement, particularly in rural or underserved areas where much of the care is provided by NPs. The Courier-Journal article quoted Julianne Ewen, current president of the Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners & Nurse Midwives, who estimates the cost for a collaborative agreement is approximately $1,000 a month, but noted some NPs pay significantly more.

Your readers should know that NPs have an excellent track record for high quality, safe and effective patient care regardless of location or population served. And this is true in states with or without collaborative agreements. Many well-documented clinical trials and meta-analyses have shown no major differences in patient outcomes when treated by an NP versus a physician. Other studies have shown that patients under the care of NPs tend to have greater compliance, increased satisfaction and higher condition resolution rates than a physician. A review by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) indicated these outcomes are most likely the result of more effective communication, counseling and interviewing skills by the Nurse Practitioner.

Additionally, the care provided by NPs is very cost-effective. Another analysis by the OTA showed that medical care by NPs was equivalent to or even exceeded physician care, but at a much lower cost. Removing the requirement for a collaborative agreement for non-controlled medications will not only save the cost of compensating physicians for their signatures on the agreement, but will also increase the number of available primary care providers, thus allowing for greater patient access to care and preventative services. The recently upheld health care reform bill will lead to a significant increase in the number of newly insured patients in Kentucky, adding to the need for primary care providers.

The best scenario is a partnership between the patient and all health care providers involved with the patient’s care. Ultimately, the focus remains the provision of quality, cost-effective care to improve the health of all Kentuckians.

Laura Columbia

Frankfort

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